New Zealand is highly revered for its sporting successes, especially on the rugby field, however Kiwi squash player Paul Coll is also doing his country proud and quickly becoming a formidable force on the PSA World Tour.
Throughout 2015, the 23-year-old from Greymouth, New Zealand has soared into the world’s top 50 and clinched multiple PSA World Tour titles in the process.
The current World No.40 defied the odds in August to secure the Australian Open title, producing an outstanding performance to defeat his training partner and home favourite Cameron Pilley in the final. The New Zealander, who was unseeded for the tournament, admits he was delighted with the victory.
“Winning the Australian Open was a surreal feeling and beating someone of Cameron Pilley's status gave me huge confidence in my game and what I could achieve,” said Coll.
“The win also gave me opportunities to compete in the bigger tournaments on the PSA World Tour.”
After claiming this prestigious title, Coll’s winning momentum continued apace, marching to his first national title in August before becoming New Zealand’s No.1 player in September’s PSA world rankings.
“Throughout my whole life I have always wanted to be the best player in New Zealand, so to finally achieve this goal was an amazing feeling,” he said.
“Campbell Grayson and Martin Knight have been at the top for many years and I’ve always looked up to them, so it’s a good feeling to be ahead of them for now.”
As well as reaching these career highs in the summer, Coll continued to build on his success and finished the year in style, conquering four English opponents to seal the London Open title in November.
Seeded No.1 for the event, the Kiwi didn’t drop a single game en route to the final and produced a strong display to overcome the resilient Ben Coleman in the title decider, eventually prevailing 3-2 after a five-game thriller.
“The London Open was the perfect way to finish the year,” Coll enthused.
“It’s always different being the top seed, I was probably more nervous in some of these matches than playing in the World Championship the week before.”
Coll goes in for the dive
New Zealand currently boasts an impressive total of five top 100 players and Coll has paid tribute to the vibrant junior squash scene in the country.
“Grassroots squash is a lot of fun in New Zealand,” said Coll.
“We have good junior tournaments and there is always a fun vibe at these events. My Mum and Dad played squash so I was always down at the courts. Despite playing lots of sports in my youth, when I got picked for New Zealand squash I began to focus on the sport a lot more.”
Like most of the world’s best players, Coll trains extremely hard and has his own unique type of match preparation.
“I do at least one physical and one on court session a day,” he said.
“My physical work is usually in the gym and usually finishes with me lying on the ground in a lot of pain. Before a match I usually have a light hit in the morning, followed by a nap and some good food – then I’m ready to play.”
The Kiwi’s immediate focus now turns towards next month’s J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions where he’ll hope to secure passage to the main draw of a PSA World Series event for the first time in his career.
Coll is quietly ambitious about his future prospects and has set his sights on achieving more success in 2016, while he also outlined his longer term goals.
“Obviously I would love to see my ranking keep rising, hopefully into the top 20s and I hope to qualify for some PSA World Series events,” the high-flying 23-year-old said.
“I aim to compete on the glass courts against the best in the world. I’d also love to win a gold medal for New Zealand at the Commonwealth Games and of course strive to be the best in world and win the World Championship.”
If Coll can continue his imperious form on the PSA World Tour, he could well be challenging for the sport's most illustrious titles in years to come.
By Jonny Coverdale